More Crowd Chaos As “Tray of Pimms Upset” at Costello Kew Gardens Gig

Elvis Costello Kew Gardens 2014 IMG_2008

Just a week after 38 people were left injured with eight needing hospital treatment at The Libertines’ Hyde Park concert, crowd control has once again hit the news, this time at Elvis Costello’s Kew Gardens concert as part of the “Kew The Music” series of concerts. After just one song the show was stopped by security after a fish slice in the VIP area was misplaced. Costello pleaded with the audience to “calm down a bit” as fans were dragged over security barriers to avoid spoiling their clothes against a tray of spilled Pimms. Chaos ensued when the Orangery temporarily ran out of Fever Tree tonic water and had to use a lesser brand instead.

Well, okay, perhaps it didn’t quite happen like that.

In fact, after standing for hours in the Glastonbury mud to see Metallica, and enduring the crowd crushes and mosh pits of Motörhead and Black Sabbath shows at Hyde Park, the gentler climes of Kew Gardens were something of a blessed relief.

Elvis Costello Kew Gardens 2014 IMG_2037

Yes, that Kew Gardens. Home of horticulture and hotbed of hyacinths, hostas and hydrangeas.

In short, if flora, fauna or fungi are your fancy, Kew Gardens is your place. Or as Elvis Costello put it, “I love the smell of magnolias when I’m playing guitar….”

Stonebaked Pizza.... Whatever next? Garlic Bread?
Stonebaked Pizza….
Whatever next? Garlic Bread?

Perhaps less well appreciated is Kew’s rock n roll credentials. And there’s a reason for that. It doesn’t have any. The day after Costello, they’re putting on a headline performance for Bjorn Again. It’s safe to say The Who didn’t play their first shows here. We might not be too far geographically speaking from Richmond, but an iridescent summer’s evening with Kew’s glistening hothouses as a backdrop is some distance from the sweaty pub that formed the scene of The Rolling Stones’ early performances.

But at a time when VIP areas are being questioned as divisive and potentially dangerous by cramming more of us “ordinary” punters into a smaller space*, Kew The Music is laying on a show where pretty much everywhere is a VIP area. As far as the eye can see are picnic blankets, camping chairs, bottles of Pimms, Bags For Life and trays of drinks. Instead of a mosh-pit, there’s a fire-pit for a barbecue.IMG_1982

There’s also an entire hospitality area roped off for John Lewis staff and customers. But by not stuffing the place with sixty thousand people, everyone is comfortable. It’s almost (dare we say it) civilised.

And everyone is here to see the incredibly under-appreciated Elvis Costello, who has infiltrated this nest of John Lewis-sponsored comfort with his down to earth songs and the subversion of “Shipbuilding”…

Audience members of Elvis Costello shows are part of a secret society. It’s a club that knows they are witnessing one of Britain’s greatest rock n rollers reach new peaks in his live performance. Because an Elvis Costello show is one of Life’s Great Joys. He’s a songwriter who can stand toe to toe (or song to song) with Paul McCartney and Ray Davies. He is still putting his heart and soul into making his shows enormously entertaining.

Tonight, he has left his band behind, along with the go-go girls, lounge area and spinning song wheel (see my review of last year’s show). There’s no drum kit: it’s just Elvis onstage, with a guitar or two and his songs, including openers “Red Shoes”, “Accidents will Happen” and “Green Shirt”.

Elvis Costello Kew Gardens 2014 IMG_2018

“Veronica” (co-written with Paul McCartney) makes an early appearance, alongside “New Amsterdam”, which incorporates The Beatles’ “You’ve got to hide your love away”. Before it dawns on you how many great songs Costello has, he’s already run through “Every day I Write the Book” and just to rub it in, Costello plays “Watching the Detectives” solo – with just a loop pedal to accompany him, and reverts to piano for a gorgeous “Shipbuilding”.

Elvis Costello Kew Gardens 2014 IMG_2016

“Oliver’s Army” is next, with help from support act The McManus brothers, and then perhaps the most appropriate song of the evening, “A Good Year for the Roses”. I half expected Kew Gardens staff to come onstage and argue that actually conditions had been less than ideal for rose-growing in 2014…

Elvis Costello Kew Gardens 2014 IMG_2043

Elvis was joined for the last half dozen songs by slide guitarist Megan Lovell and Rebecca Lovell on mandolin, (both from support band Larkin Poe) and the show rounded off with “Hoover Factory”, “Alison”, “Long Distance Love” and “Peace, Love and Understanding”.

Fireworks exploded overhead for a perfect finale. I know, it’s not really very rock n roll, but just for once, I liked it.

Oh, and put money on the Christmas John Lewis advert being an Elvis Costello song…

* This criticism was levelled at the Hyde Park organisers, who countered that barriers saved lives by splitting the crowd in two. To be fair, I had a better view of the Hyde Park gigs than people who paid extra for the “VIP area” did, as they were all thirty yards back and to the side of the stage.





10 responses to “More Crowd Chaos As “Tray of Pimms Upset” at Costello Kew Gardens Gig”

  1. ITM (@itm) Avatar

    FYI Elvis didn’t do a cover of Shipbuilding – he wrote it


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Doh! You’re right of course. Getting muddled up during to the Wyatt release. Thank you: article corrected.


  2. rossmurray1 Avatar

    One of the finest “at last” moments of my life was seeing Elvis and The Imposters at Osheaga in Montreal a few years back. He headlined the Saturday night show but was competing with F*cked Up at another stage. It’s a young crowd at Osheaga, so F*cked Up kind of won, but that gave me and my 16-year-old daughter pretty close access to the stage. You are right about Elvis. Such a pro performer, generous and sincere even in playing the more popular songs in his deep, deep catalogue. And Steve Nieve rules the keyboards.


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      I was blown away by his full band show last year and it was nice to see this solo show without the band. He always seems to dig out an old / obscure song or two it seems, and they sound so fresh…


      1. rossmurray1 Avatar

        True, in Montreal, he played “Bedlam,” which was a great surprise.


  3. There’s one thing I wanna know | radio seattle Avatar

    […] To my relief, Getty Images have already uploaded photos from the gig. My camera skills remain as hopeless as ever (even more so when I forget to take a camera with me). If you’ve made it this far, to the bottom of my usual ramblings, you’ll be please to know that further, better-written reviews of the gig can be found in The Guardian and the unfailingly witty Every Record Tells a Story. […]


  4. travellingmo Avatar

    I love Elvis Costello!!! That sounds like a great show, hopefully I’ll get a chance to see him one day


  5. John S Avatar

    I’d have been there had I not been going to Latitude. Sounds great. M&S picnics all round!


    1. Every Record Tells A Story Avatar

      Probably nearly as many at Kew as at Latitude…


  6. Avatar

    Sounds like a great show. And your pictures are fantastic.


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